There were at least two men named Richard Dick
Freeman in Waterbury. One lived in Westbury (Watertown),
the other in Waterbury.
The name Freeman was often taken as a surname
by African Americans who had been freed from slavery;
it was also, however, the word used to refer to the voting
members, normally white men, of a town.
Richard Freeman of Waterbury was remembered fondly by
Henry Bronson in his 1858 History of Waterbury.
Freemans death in 1835 was recorded by Bennett Bronson
as Dick, a negro, d. Jan. 12, 1835, a. 90.
His death was recorded with slightly more dignity by Rev.
Allen C. Morgan, rector of St. Johns Episcopal Church:
Richard Freeman (negro) d. Jan. 12, 1835, a. about
96. This seems to be the only reference to his full
According to Henry Bronson, Dick often talked about being
taken captive while he was a child on the shores
of Africa while playing in the sand. He was born
in either 1739 or 1745; his capture probably occurred
in the early- to mid-1750s. He was sold several times
before finally arriving in Waterbury, where he was the
property of Rev. James Scovill and of Deacon Stephen Bronson.
Scovill also had a woman named Phillis enslaved in his
household. Henry Bronson wrote that Dick was sold several
times, with the understanding that he might return
when he chose. It is not clear what he meant by
Rev. Scovill moved to New Brunswick in 1788. Dick remained
in Waterbury, apparently as a free man. Henry Bronson
wrote that Dick worked for Rev. Scovills son and
for Stephen Bronson after 1788.
In 1788, Dick "an Affrican [sic.] servant of the
Revd. James Scovill" purchased two acres, fourteen
rods of land from Waterbury's Simeon Nichols. The property
was located at the north end of Simeon's property, near
Smug's Brook in the southeastern part of town. Dick sold
his property to Isaiah Prichard in 1796 for twice his
original purchase price. The transaction appears in the
Waterbury Land Records.
In 1792 Dick purchased a "small dwelling house"
built by Sampson on a lot that had once been owned by
Simeon Nichols and was then the property of Capt. William
Leavenworth. It was located in the eastern section of
Waterbury. The deed was witnessed by Preserved and Isaac
Porter and copied in the Waterbury Land Records
Dick does not appear by name in the 1790 census of Waterbury;
the 1800 census lists him as a free African and the head
of a household of four other people.
We know from Henry Bronson that Dick had a wife and children.
He may have been married to an African American woman
named Time. The 1810 census lists two free African Americans,
Dick and Time, living together in Waterbury.
In 1789, an African American woman named Time divorced
her husband Dick. Time and Dick had been married in 1772,
when they were both enslaved by Capt. Moses Rice of Wallingford,
Connecticut. After many years, Dick left Time to live
with another woman in Cheshire; Time petitioned for divorce
on the grounds of her husbands adultery.
Dick was considered to be a member of the family
by the Scovills and Bronsons, although census data suggests
that he was living in the poor house by the 1830s. Henry
Bronson remembered from his childhood that Dick was a
kind man who became blind in old age. Bronson also recalled
that wicked boys would play tricks
on Dick after he lost his sight.